the christmas invasion
PG, gen. The Doctor is dead, long live the Doctor.
This is not how Rose imagined stripping the Doctor.
This is not what regeneration is supposed to be like. The Doctor dreams
He was supposed to be awake, for one thing, and an almost-skinhead Northerner
for another. If she’s imagined it, and she isn’t saying she has, it would have
been her and the Doctor, her Doctor, beneath the lights beyond the sky with the
universe in a whirl around them.
Not like this, in the grey winter on the estate, with her mum and Mickey helping
her carry a Doctor she doesn’t even recognise in face or in frailty. In the
flat, he doesn’t look like the Doctor she knew, even wearing his clothes, and he
doesn’t look like an alien or a Time Lord, whatever Time Lords are supposed to
look like; he sort of looks nothing so much as someone who needs an ambulance,
and she’s never seen death without the Doctor and she doesn’t want to start now.
To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under the sun. The
key falls through his skin, into his heart, shaken by the flow of the blood, lub-dub
swirl and it hurts, but he’ll never lose himself again. The blood drips along
the road. He follows that.
She starts with the leather jacket. Jackie looks on, thoughtfully, as Rose tugs
at the sleeves, manages to get it off him bit by bit with his head lolling
against her shoulder. “You’re taking his clothes off, then,” she says, still
with that same thoughtfulness.
“Mum,” Rose gets out through gritted teeth, “We can’t put him to bed just like
this. I’m going to need your help.”
“Haven’t you had the practice with this model?” Jackie asks brightly, and then
relents at Rose’s look. “I’ve got some pyjamas somewhere. Be right back.”
A time to lose and a time to seek, and a world that was lost. He follows the
breadcrumbs but the birds ate the trail, the vultures came for the carrion and
ravens died over Gallifrey’s rocks and dust.
Strangely, she shuts the door behind her. Perhaps she’s learning sensitivity in
her old age, Rose thinks, but whatever it is, she’s glad her mother has gone.
She knows the Doctor, knew the Doctor, like an extension of herself, a flitting
shadow through her consciousness every moment of the day, and if anyone’s earned
this privilege, if privilege if may be called, it’s Rose. She thinks it, and
looks at the leather jacket, a discarded black puddle on the floor, and then
thinks: nothing’s ever that simple.
Because this is a stranger. And she’ll hasten the transformation with her own
hands, remove the Doctor she doesn’t know from the protective shell that she
does, because there’s no-one else. With him leant against her, she can get the
t-shirt off his head, and she isn’t gentle about it; maybe he’ll wake up if she
jolts him enough. But there’s no change, except now she can see the depth of the
pallor in his skin, trace it with a finger along the lines of his face and down
the nape of his neck.
A time to mourn and a time to dance (nothing’s left to end), and the universe
awaits the Doctor. He can play the piper’s tune for the whole stinkin’ world;
but it’s no fun now it’s allowed. He dances on time’s graves.
Beneath the t-shirt, pressed against his hearts, she finds dull metal chain and
the TARDIS key, worn shiny by his skin and warmed by his body heat. She leaves
it where it is.
Jackie comes in at just that moment, stopping by the door with the pyjamas slung
over one arm, and Rose freezes, ready for the sharp comment about what happens
when you co-habit in what is, from all outside perspectives, a very small box.
But Jackie doesn’t say anything like that. Instead, she softens, and it’s harder
to bear, everything all at once, that her mum actually thinks that she’s looking
after the Doctor, with a certain tenderness, with love, even, but it’s still not
about sex, and if her mum gets that, then everything really is as blackly awful
as it seems.
A time to kill and a time to heal, and the wounds are beneath the cracked
earth, before their time. If he’s stripped, he’ll bleed, but the stupid apes
won’t leave him alone.
They won’t let him die. Things get better.
Silently, they get the Doctor into the pyjamas. “He’s a Time Lord,” she tells
Jackie suddenly. “He’s supposed to be” – and a small laugh – “quite important.”
At this moment he’s naked and asleep in her arms. Jackie says nothing as the
silence stretches out. And then the Doctor is safely wrapped up again, beneath
the covers, and Rose doesn’t know if she’s sorry or glad to lose his skin
“He’ll be all right, love,” says Jackie, softly, and Rose wants to believe.
Behind her head, the Doctor dreams, and the world doesn’t end. Not yet.
And a time to die and a time to be born; for everything there is a season,
and roses bloom in June.